A blockbuster alliance has been forged in the war for streaming television subscribers, adding fuel to the argument that the future of TV may not lie with traditional cable.
HBO will allow Amazon to stream select content from the premium cable service to its Prime customers beginning next month, under a multiyear licensing agreement. It’s the first such deal that HBO has struck with an outside provider, and one that finally makes iconic shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” available to viewers who have cut the cable cord.
“Amazon has built a wonderful service – we are excited to have our programming made available to their vast customer base and believe the exposure will create new HBO subscribers,” said Charles Schreger, president of programming sales for HBO, in a press release.
Additionally, HBO GO, the network’s digital streaming service, will be made available on Fire TV, Amazon’s streaming set-top box and Apple TV rival, by the end of the year.
With the Amazon deal, HBO is marketing itself beyond the bounds of traditional cable. Last October, Comcast started offering Internet Plus, a package that bundles an HBO subscription with Internet and smaller lineup of cable channels, for between $40 and $50 a month. In the past, the network has expressed interest in spinning HBO GO off into its own product. Furthermore, the network has done little to discourage the rampant piracy and password-“borrowing” that allow millions of nonsubscribers to watch HBO content, most notably “Game of Thrones,” its most popular series.
The Amazon partnership will do nothing to change that, at least for now. At the start, the HBO shows available for Prime members will be the ones that are either off the air or at least three years old (so, not “Game of Thrones”). It also won’t include older shows that are currently tied up in syndication, like “Sex and the City.” That will change eventually: In the announcement, HBO said that early seasons of currently running shows like “Girls,” “Veep,” and “The Newsroom” will eventually be offered, but not for at least a few years.
It’s a huge get for Amazon, which has been shoring up the content available through its streaming TV service in recent months. The big early loser, however, seems to be the other big name in the online content game: Netflix, which saw its stock price drop 5.2 percent on the heels of Wednesday’s announcement. Netflix also announced a price hike for new subscribers this week.
Over 1,700 HBO titles will start to appear on Amazon May 21 and will include:
- All seasons of HBO’s older hit shows, including “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood,” “The Wire,” and “Six Feet Under.”
- Certain more-recent shows, including Eastbound and Down,” and “Flight of the Conchords.”
- Older seasons of some current series, including “True Blood” and “Boardwalk Empire.”
- HBO original movies like “Game Change.”
- HBO documentaries.
- HBO comedy specials, including those from Louis C.K. and Ellen DeGeneres.